Barra, barra, barra… oops!

Egrant symbolises the willingness of a PN that was ready to latch on to anything, even a lie, that reinforced the belief that Joseph Muscat and his government are rotten to the core

Simon Busuttil had embraced the Egrant allegations and made them his
Simon Busuttil had embraced the Egrant allegations and made them his

It had to be the mother of all scandals that would bring down Joseph Muscat and his government but several months later it has boomeranged really bad.

Egrant had to belong to Michelle Muscat and the link was supposed to be supported by documentary evidence that had been preserved in “the cloud” and an eyewitness.

But the story that gripped a nation only a year ago has turned out to be one big lie.

The Egrant story that had to be the nail in Muscat’s coffin was but a fabrication built on falsified documents, forged signatures, an unreliable eyewitness by the name of Maria Efimova and a gullible journalist who, blinded by political interest, failed to verify the information she was fed.

More seriously, we had a Nationalist Party led by Simon Busuttil that latched on to the Egrant story and embraced it wholeheartedly, believing it would deliver election victory.

People did not buy it, more so when the documentary proof was never produced. There was never any proof, to begin with, it now transpires.

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja’s conclusions have left no doubt. Many had feared that the magistrate would use language that allowed room for interpretation and give everyone the chance to claim victory. But this is not the case.

And like many came to realise over the years, Caruana Galizia’s reporting was very often one-sided, blinded by partisan and classist considerations and at times simply not true

Bugeja’s conclusions are clear and while we still await the publication of the full inquiry report, there is no doubt that the Egrant story was one big political frame-up.

And those who orchestrated this, fomented it, and put the country on edge must now shoulder responsibility.

Unfortunately, Daphne Caruana Galizia is no longer here to answer for the sloppy reporting on this case and how she allowed herself to get carried away by Efimova’s wild claims.

But others must answer. For starters, Efimova may care to stop tweeting as if she is the doyen of good governance and start giving clear answers on the story she evidently concocted and for which she earned the whistleblower label.

Busuttil also has a lot to answer for. He cannot claim that the story was not his.

The former PN leader embraced the story and took no time to take to the streets in April last year, calling for Muscat’s head.

“Barra, barra, barra…” he screamed, as he refused to take up the Prime Minister’s challenge to resign if the magisterial inquiry found no shard of evidence against him and his wife.

Egrant symbolises the willingness of a PN that was ready to latch on to anything, even a lie, that reinforced the belief that Muscat and his government are rotten to the core.

Now, this government has had its fair share of problems, scandals and questionable decisions. Those ills will have to continue being flagged and brought to light.

The Egrant inquiry conclusions must not sweep everything else under the carpet but the PN narrative that everything Muscat touches has a whiff of corruption is simply unbelievable.

Egrant represented the epitome of that toxic narrative, which led Busuttil to take aim at top ranking civil servants, the country’s institutions and non-political individuals, threatening them that their heads will roll if the PN was elected to government.

Egrant enabled the PN to take direct aim at Muscat and his wife in the cruellest of ways.

The magistrate’s conclusions exonerate Muscat as much as they tell a lot about Busuttil’s inability to understand when a story requires caution and when it requires full-blown action. It appears that Busuttil required no caution when that story came from Caruana Galizia. He believed what she wrote lock, stock and barrel.

And like many came to realise over the years, Caruana Galizia’s reporting was very often one-sided, blinded by partisan and classist considerations and at times simply not true.

But the buck does not stop with Busuttil alone. Adrian Delia’s PN has a lot of soul searching to do, not least because the current leader’s right-hand man, Pierre Portelli, had been one to peddle the Egrant story by claiming to have seen the documents.

He had also been taken for a ride by Efimova, something journalists have to always be careful of when dealing with sources that come forward with ‘good’ stories.

But political blinkers appear to have got the better of Portelli’s judgement last year as he unquestionably was taken in by the PN corruption narrative.

It was a narrative that closed its eyes to the PN’s own wrongdoing and those in the media who dared question the Opposition’s actions in cases like the db Group debacle, were accused of trying to distract the public from Muscat’s ills.

The spotlight had to be Muscat, and Muscat alone – Egrant was the pinnacle.

Many must be biting their tongue really hard now.

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